9th Annual Study Abroad Program in Panama
Program Director: Dr. Rhonda Buchanan
Assistant Program Director: Dr. Al Futrell
"The opportunity made me see the world as a place with possibilities, not just responsibilities. Now, I want more from life. Now, it is not okay to go a day without smiling. I have a newfound enthusiasm for life. Panama brought me out of my shell. Panama made me stronger."
"All of the food that I tasted an all of the other fun things and memories that my friends and I shared were priceless. The food that we had was different and I tried things that I would have never done anywhere else in the world. All of the traditional foods were very good and even some of the ones I would have never thought about were also good. I was even able to try another cultural food that I had never heard of before. In all, this experience has opened my eyes. I have loved everything about Panama. Even the constant honking of cars was just different. I love the laid back spirit of Panama. I love the hospitality of the Hotel Las Vegas. I love the people in Panama. I love the new friends that I made while I was here. Everything that we have done while in Panama has made me want to come back again at some other time in my life."
"One of the huge benefits I gained was that my Spanish has improved quite a bit since being here. I am doing a Spanish minor so I took the Spanish Conversation course that was offered. I was able to actually use things that I have learned in class throughout the day. One of the benefits that I noticed when my Spanish improved was that I was able to negotiate cheaper taxi rides without the driver thinking I was American and overcharging me. I went from paying $8 for a 10-minute cab ride at the beginning to negotiating down to $3.50 for a 35-minute cab ride by the end of the trip. It was also just great to be able to have the skills to order food at a restaurant or ask a question if I needed to."
"If there were one thing that I could recommend to an incoming freshman, it would definitely be to study abroad; there is no better way to learn and experience culture."
"One of the biggest differences I've seen while I've been in Panama is the personal relations everyone has with each other. Panamanians teach you how to be more outgoing and to have a more positive outlook on life. They teach you to live in the moment and to fully embrace every experience you have, and I feel as if I have truly done that. Every Panamanian I met showed extreme hospitality by always welcoming me wherever I go, whether it be into their home, out to eat with them, or just giving me a ride from the grocery store. It has taught me to be more open and show more kindness to others, even if you are not best friends with them or don't like them as much. It is so hard to explain everything I was able to experience in Panama because I could write all day and all night about it and still not show you the impact it has had on me."
"Another trip I thoroughly enjoyed was the hike through the Metropolitan Park and the hike on Ancón Hill. Fabio, our tour guide, helped us find many different types of animals, including poison dart frogs, agouti (which are a member of the rodent family and look like giant guinea pigs), coati (which look like a mix between a raccoon an an ant eater, but they act like the Tasmanian Devil), toucans and coo coo birds. I also was blessed with the opportunity to visit San Blas for a couple of days on one of our free weekends. We got to visit some beautiful islands that are home to some of the Kuna Indians. San Blas is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, so the water was crystal clear and you could see the bottom, even in the spots where it was 20+ feet deep! Luckily I had brought my goggles with me and I was able to find starfish that were bigger than my head, and many other fish, however, Nemo was not among the fish I saw."
"Another huge reason this trip put me out of my comfort zone is because this is the first time I have ever left the United States. Finally, I got my first stamp on my passport! Coming to a place where English is not the most common language was eye-opening to me. At first it was hard for me to ask for directions, or even order my food as I was nervous thinking I could not keep up with the conversation. But after the time spent here, I have adapted and become more comfortable not only living here, but being able to speak and get along on my own too.
"I am coming back to America as a new woman. My eyes have been opened to other ways of living, and my mind has expanded drastically to all of the possibilities that wait for me out in the world. I tried my best to fully emerge myself into every aspect of the culture, and participate in every activity I could. I never thought I would enjoy being out of my comfort zone so much! Not only have I matured from my personal experiences, but also from the relationships I have made with my fellow scholars and my Panamanian friends I have made. I contribute my confidence in trying new things to the people I am surrounded by. I never would have pictured myself ziplining or kayaking in the ocean, but they could, and they supported me the whole way. Though the language barrier has been tough, I have realized I know more than I thought I did, and that I an still survive even though I am not fluent yet."
"Some people never get an opportunity to experience other cultures outside of their own, let alone travel abroad. I feel that it is my duty to bring back what I've learned from this trip and enlighten with my community. In the States we are so saturated with our own cultural imperialism that we fail to empathize with perspectives not of our own. This world that my generation is growing up in becomes smaller and smaller each day with the waves of new technology and ease of global communication. It is imperative that I begin to understand different cultures, their belief systems, and even common practices to prosper in the business of today. Every day as I walked to school, I looked at this billboard that read 'Knowledge is not a Destination.' The phrase has been marinating in my brain for three weeks, and I feel its true meaning now. Knowledge isn't only acquired in a classroom, or on a study abroad to a specific destination, but rather from all around us on a daily basis in everything we experience."
-Phillip Garrard, Jr.
"Not only is this the first extensive exposure I've had to Latin American Spanish linguistics, it is also the first time I have been further south than Tennessee, and therefore the first time I've ever been in a remotely tropical climate. I have gotten to do and see so many new things in these three weeks, including canoeing down a river to an indigenous village, hiking through rainforest, and going to a Caribbean beach. I think that our trip to the Emberá village was one of my favorite excursions; riding in dugout canoes on the Chagres River, hiking to a waterfall and swimming in the pool below it, and spending time with a relatively indigenous group."
"I have always loved to travel and have been fortunate enough to do some traveling in my life but this trip has reopened my love and passion for traveling. I am an International Affairs major with an emphasis in Spanish and Latin American Studies. While I have learned a great deal about the University of Louisville, being able to be in a foreign country for an extended period of time, while taking classes has ignited a flame in me that I thought I had lost. I am already thinking about how I can travel again to Panama or another foreign country with a study abroad program. I will graduate in December 2011 and because of this trip I am already looking in to graduate programs in Spanish-speaking countries."
"On our first week of being in Panama, we went on three excursions. We went on the Chiva Parrandera, which is a bus that gives you a tour of Panama during the night time and has a band in the back that plays different kinds of Spanish music. The skyline at nighttime was so gorgeous! Also that week, we hiked to the top of a hill in one of Panama's National Parks called Cerro Ancón. With the help of our tour guide, Fabio Trujillo, we learned many things about different animals and landmarks found in Panama. The last trip of the first week was to Isla Grande and Portobelo. This trip was very interesting because we were able to see the church where one of the biggest pilgrimages in Panama happens. It was so neat to be in the place where a big aspect of Panamanian culture occurs."
"While staying in Panama, our group was able to do many learning activities. These activities included attending an orphanage where I was able to act like a sister and take care of someone for three hours. This was a great experience for me because I'm an only child and I never got the opportunity of acting like someone's older sister. I learned that I shouldn't take what I have for granted because I could have been placed in my little kid's shoes."
"One of my favorite moments of this trip was a night at the Kuna Village in San Blas where we stayed up all night simply debating how Panamanian culture varied so much, and how our culture did as well but we were simply blinded from it. The idea of becoming content has now become fuzzy in my eyes from experiencing the different worlds that are formed in each religious and social economical class."
"This trip has really been beneficial to me. I got several ideas about service projects that I might be able to start at the University of Louisville, once I am home. I was able to learn so much about Panamanian culture. It has inspired me to have a love for travel. In the future I am planning to study abroad again."
"We visited San Blas, which was one of the highlights of my trip. We stayed on an island in the Caribbean where we were welcomed by the Kuna people, who were very friendly and hospitable. After talking with some of the community leaders, I wrote a paper about their struggles for territorial autonomy and how it relates to the preservation of their culture. Spending these three weeks in Panama has been a great way to start the summer, but for me it is much more than an exciting adventure; it has been an ideal way to further enhance my understanding of a different part of the world, and a great beginning to my final stage of college."
"Once I started to open my mind and learn more about Panamanian culture, Panama began to feel like a second home. I was lucky enough to make friends with the QLU Panamanian students in our intercultural communication class. They were so friendly and really showed Panama to me in a different light. It turns out that they will be studying abroad at UofL for two years starting in August."
"One of the most rewarding experiences on the trip was visiting the Aldeas Orphanage. We brought toys and candy to underprivileged children and spent the afternoon with them, playing and running around in the grass. They were so excited to see us and so sweet. It broke most of our hearts to know they didn't have parents and to leave them at the end of the day. We made sure to get their addresses so we could write and send them letters and Christmas cards."
"Everyone here was extremely friendly, and not once did I feel the slightest of insecurity. I find myself appreciating all the customs and culture this very beautiful country has. From this I will take back to my everyday life the hospitality, open-mindedness, nationality, and easy-going ways in Panama City."
"As a Spanish minor, my time in Panama has been a great benefit; interacting with the locals in real world situations has improved my ability and comfort as a student of Spanish much more than any previous classroom interactions I have had. From haggling with taxi drivers to discussing conservation efforts in Latin America, Panama has provided me with unique opportunities for growth in Spanish."
"Visiting Kuna Yala to learn more about the Kuna women and their molas was another experience I really enjoyed. Molas are appliqued textiles used in the women's traditional dress. It was very fulfilling to see the background information I had obtained prior to the trip come to life. My research in Kuna Yala has made me excited for the chance to further explore the Kunas and their molas as I develop my Master's thesis exhibition next spring. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how they lived and how the molas truly are an important aspect of their daily lives."
"I believe that this study abroad trip to Panama was beneficial to myself and my classmates because of the culture and language classes that are paired with the excursions that help to make what we learn in class a reality. When we learned about sports and entertainment, we went to a National Baseball Tournament where we danced and shouted right in the mix with all the Panamanians as they cheered on their team. We took salsa classes at the school and then we went salsa dancing at salsa clubs. Even though we probably looked like complete fools on the dance floor alongside the people that had been dancing salsa their whole lives, we took that challenge and learned to open ourselves up to the new culture, and we loved it. I believe that the excursions like this allowed us to experience differences in other countries and cultures enriched our lives and our schooling."
"I noticed from the moment we stepped off the plane that everyone was speaking Spanish. My first encounter with using Spanish to communicate in Panama was with the lady who checked my passport. She asked me a couple of questions and it made me happy that I could respond back to her."
"Before coming to Panamá and receiving information about the trip and what it entailed, I was thrilled to have such an opportunity to be a part of this unforgettable experience. So many emotions were within me and I had no idea what to expect. If I were to sum up this trip in one sentence, I would say: 'The actual experience is so much more than any brochure or word of mouth will ever be able to tell you and it is worth it 110% hands down.'"